Minister visits science and technology park set for £50m investment

A Government minister has visited the North East’s premier science and technology park as it looks set to expand through a £50million investment.

George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, was at NETPark (The North East Technology Park) in Sedgefield today.

The business park will be extended with a new third phase after Durham County Council’s Cabinet agreed to £49.6m being used to finance the development.

The new phase could generate up to 1,250 skilled jobs, helping to deliver the council’s ambition to create more and better jobs for residents, and be worth up to £625m to the County Durham economy.

Plans for growth

Mr Freeman was shown first-hand the work going on at the park, which was developed by us and managed by the business support service for Durham County Council (DCC) Business Durham. It is the region’s only science park, home to 40 science and technology companies, employing over 600 people.

Mr Freeman was accompanied on his visit by Paul Howell, MP for Sedgefield, Cllr Amanda Hopgood, DCC leader, Cllr Richard Bell, deputy leader and Cabinet member for finance, and Cllr James Rowlandson, DCC Cabinet member for resources, investments and assets.

During his visit, Mr Freeman met with representatives from the North East space community including Filtronic to hear about their work as well as leaders from Durham University and CPI (Centre for Process Innovation).

The North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence is based at NETPark.  Led by Business Durham and supported by the Satellite Applications Catapult and the UK Space Agency, it has played an important role in the growth of the region’s space sector, championing space opportunities within the region and connecting businesses to bring new expertise into the sector.

The minister heard about plans to develop the North East Space Hub on Phase Three at NETPark to further develop this growing sector.

World class businesses

George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, said: “As new Minister for UK Science, Research and Innovation one of my top three priorities is harnessing Innovation for Regeneration: to invest around the whole country – not just the Oxford Cambridge London ‘golden triangle’.

“That’s why I’ve come here to the North East in my first week to signal our support for the world-class cluster of science and technology businesses from Teesside through County Durham to Newcastle and Northumberland. NETPark is a cluster of world-class innovative businesses creating new jobs, opportunities and prosperity for Durham and UK plc.”

Cllr Amanda Hopgood, DCC leader, said: “We’ve been delighted to welcome the minister to County Durham today and show him the exciting progress that is being made at NETPark.

“We believe that this new package of investment will create up to 1,250 jobs and boost the County Durham economy by more than £600million, delivering on our plans to create a wide range of new jobs for our residents.”

Investment plans

Paul Howell, MP for Sedgefield, said: “In my visits to NETPark the businesses I talked to have asked me to promote NETPark as a place to invest and work.

“Following the recent visit of the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy I am absolutely delighted that I have been able to encourage the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, George Freeman MP to follow in his steps. I am very happy that he has joined us in his first week in post.

“A key part of our discussions is the proposal for investment in NESH, the North East Space Hub. This builds on the proposal passed last week by Durham County Council’s Cabinet to invest nearly £50million in NETPark Three. NESH is providing the UK’s next space innovation gateway to stimulate and grow the space sector in the region and with the imminent release of the Government’s Space strategy his visit could not be more timely.”

From left, Cllr Richard Bell, Durham County Council (DCC) deputy leader and Cabinet member for finance, Amy Harhoff, DCC director of regeneration, economy and growth, Sarah Slaven, managing director of Business Durham, George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Paul Howell, MP for Sedgefield and Cllr Amanda Hopgood, DCC leader at Orbit at NETPark in Sedgefield.

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The North East Technology Park provides a dynamic and supportive environment to accelerate the growth of ambitious, innovative, high tech companies into global markets. NETPark encourages collaborative multidisciplinary links, driving innovation, enterprise and economic prosperity.
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Access to quality facilities was one of the main drivers for deciding to locate the business at the NETPark. We have been able to use this as a launch pad to link into support from CPI and world-class expertise from Durham University.

Steve Clements, - Managing Director, aXenic

The quality of the facilities at NETPark and the attitude of staff is first class. It has a really dynamic, innovative atmosphere.

Dr Neil Loxley, - Chief executive, IBEX

The proximity to the universities and the infrastructure are very important factors. Ultimately having a presence in Europe is very valuable to us and we intend to stay at NETPark for many years to come.

Dr Arnab Basu, - CEO, Kromek

It fits perfectly for us that we’re surrounded by like-minded companies at NETPark. There are a number of highly skilled people in the area who can help us grow our business. The facilities and services offered by NETPark are first class, they make office life simple and engaging.

Stuart Wilson, - CEO, Ascarii

CPI has developed a specialist offering to support SMEs looking to develop their printable electronics applications and our partnership with Business Durham has been instrumental in attracting several SMEs to locate here in the region.

Dr Jon Helliwell, - Director of Printable Electronics, CPI

We initially came because of the printable electronics centre but access to a highly skilled semi conductor workforce in the North East has been a key factor in us staying and growing here, as well as the value for money office space and the access to funding.

Ken Williamson, - COO, PragmatIC Printing
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